Thursday, July 21, 2022

Two strong documentaries: 'Fire of Love' and 'Hallelujah'

 Fire of Love 

You say you've been on some crazy dates? You may want to rethink that when you watch Fire of Love, director Sara Dosa's documentary about Maurice and Katia Krafft, a husband and wife who spend their lives traveling the world so that they can watch volcanoes erupt. Maurice and Katia died during a 1991 eruption on an island off the Japanese coast, but they left lots of footage of their adventures. They photographed their work (partly to support themselves) and partly to share some of nature's more amazing sights with the rest of us. They were either lucky or focused enough to define their lives by the obsession they shared for volcanoes and each other. Knowing what they wanted their lives to be, they decided never to have children, a wise choice for folks who, though well-prepared, regularly risked their lives. At one point in Dosa's documentary, Maurice paddles a small boat across a lake full of sulfuric acid. You'll learn volcanoes are divided into two broad categories -- red and gray. It's the gray volcanoes that kill and that this intrepid couple spent their later years pursuing -- until their preoccupations finally did them in. 

Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song

If you haven't heard Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, you must have spent the last several years living under a rock. The song has been sung by many artists and has become a staple of moments meant for inspiration, grieving, or triumph. The story of this ubiquitous song is the occasion for director Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine's documentary, Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen,  A Journey, A Song. The movie also serves as a sketchy biography of Cohen, the poet/singer who died in 2016. Cohen worked on Hallelujah for years, pushing its lyrics through many permutations, 180 versions by some accounts. Mostly avoiding Cohen's non-musical life, the movie focuses on Cohen's strange, halting career. Music writer Larry Sloman offers insights into the man and his music, noting that Cohen's life had been devoted mostly to "holiness and horniness." A Montreal-born Jew, Cohen spent five years in a Zen monastery. The film leaves you with the impression that Cohen -- who appears throughout -- never captured what he was reaching for or even totally figured out what it was that drove him. Whatever else he accomplished -- and he left a fair number of memorable songs -- Cohen created a song that's now ingrained in our culture and is likely to remain there.

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